Sciatica is nerve pain caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve and is characterized by pain that originates in the buttock or lower back and travels down the legs. Pain varies in intensity and is often described as anything from dull and achy to burning, numbness, tingling, and electric shocks.
Sciatica isn’t so much a disorder as a symptom of a disorder.
What Is Sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, originating from nerve roots in the spinal cord in the lower back and extending through the buttocks and down through the legs. Pain typically radiates from the lower back down through the back of the thigh and below the knee.
While sciatica is typically felt as lower back pain, it can be felt as hip pain and be present without lower back pain. Sometimes sciatic nerve compression results in a loss of feeling or paralysis in a limb or group of muscles.
Sciatica can be aggravated by walking or bending at the waist. Often, it’s relieved by lying down or changing positions. Sometimes the pain is so severe it can make walking almost impossible.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is caused by any irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve but is most commonly the result of a herniated or bulging lumbar disc pressing on the nerve. The nerve irritation is known as “radiculopathy.”
The nerve can also be irritated by adjacent bone and muscle, such as misaligned vertebrae, tumors, internal bleeding, diabetes, constipation, and injuries or infections around the lumbar spine.
“Piriformis syndrome” is also a common cause of sciatica. The sciatic nerve runs beneath the piriformis muscle, which sits in the lower part of the spine and connects the thigh bone. The piriformis muscle helps with hip rotation. Any cramping or spasm of the piriformis muscle from a slip, fall, hip arthritis or difference in leg length can pinch the sciatic nerve and cause painful sciatica.
Pregnancy and childbirth can also irritate the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica.
Treatment of Sciatica
Because of the wide array of conditions that cause sciatica, a chiropractor will do a complete assessment to determine the cause. The diagnosis will encompass the patient’s complete medical history.
Chiropractic treatment of sciatica is non-invasive, with no surgery or medications. It’s based on corrected the underlying conditions that restrict spinal movement and cause pain and reduced function.
Treatment of sciatica will include spinal manipulation, which frees any restricted movement of the spine to restore any misaligned vertebrae to their proper position in the spinal column. Manipulation or adjustments, which are safe, effective, and painless, will reduce the irritability of the sciatic nerve that’s causing pain or spasm.
Other treatments for sciatica include ice therapies, which reduce inflammation, ultrasound, and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation).
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